Original valentines were elaborate, inventive pieces

A couple on a loveseat is pictured on this three-dimensional early 20th-century valentine. It is framed in a Lucite box so it can be displayed while open. The frame and valentine were auctioned this past fall by Skinner in Boston for 47.

Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

¢ Val St. Lambert bowl, radiating lines, red and clear, triangular, 1960s, 8 1/2 inches, $90.

¢ Daisy and Hearts vegetable bowl, oval, Johnson Brothers dinnerware, 10 inches, $130.

¢ Carnival glass bowl, Hearts & Flowers pattern, piecrust edge, ribbed back, ice blue, $435.

¢ Sweet Heart Products door push, red heart-shape advertising for hard wheat-flour and white corn-flour meal, 5-by-5 inches, $455.

¢ Valentine greeting card, cobweb center, cherubs, swans, lace fringe, c. 1850, 7-by-5 inches, $510.

¢ Elizabeth Arden perfume bottle, My Love, clear and frosted glass, sealed, 1948, 4 inches, $600.

¢ Playing cards, issued by Moore & Calvi’s Hard a Port, Wake-Up and Trump’s Long Cut tobacco, risque image of Victorian woman, 52 cards and joker, $1,705.

¢ Raggedy Ann and Andy doll, muslin body, red mop hair, Averill, 1950s, 20 inches, pair, $2,510.

¢ Blanket chest, Pennsylvania, dovetail case, turned feet, red-putty design on yellow ground, large star and heart center, c. 1810, 24-by-43 inches, $6,355.

The custom of sending Valentine cards on Feb. 14 might date back as far as the 14th century. By the 18th century, paper valentines were well-known as a sign of love. The fancy lacy valentines collected today were first made in Europe at the beginning of the 1800s. Embossed paper, cutout edges and hand-colored pictures were used to make valentines. Lace paper and paste-on decorations could be bought in stores by the 1830s. In America, the first record of valentines was in the mid-1800s. Most were handmade. Printed valentines could be bought in New York City in 1833. By the 1840s, movable valentines were popular, and figures were made to move with the help of cardboard pieces and thread. The business of making valentines was big by 1857 when, according to the records, more than 3 million were sold by New York City stores. Although valentines have been “improved” with fabric flowers, beads, feathers, real lace, shells, spun glass and more, the valentine with paper lace and paper pictures remains popular. Collectors today will pay more than $150 for an elaborate old valentine made with silver lace and colored lithographs. Makers like Esther Howland, Raphael Tuck and Louis Prang add to the value. Three-dimensional cards, first popular in the 1890s, are still admired. They are fragile and were damaged easily, but they continue to be made and are wanted by collectors.

Q: Could you tell me the age and value of my German porcelain plate? It’s marked with a crown surrounded by the initials “J.K.W.” and the words “West Germany.” The plate is decorated with a romantic outdoor picture of a troubadour and a woman in fancy 18th-century costumes. A dark-blue border surrounds the center picture, and 13 similar romantic scenes are on the plate’s border. The plate has gold-painted highlights and trim.

The words “West Germany” are a big clue that your plate was made for export between 1949, when East and West Germany were formed, and 1990, when the country was reunified. The crown mark was used by Josef Kuba Works of Wiesau, Bavaria, Germany. Kuba’s factory was founded in Carlsbad, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), in 1900, but was re-established in West Germany in 1947. Plates decorated like yours lost popularity by the end of the 1950s, so it’s likely your plate is about 50 years old. Romantic decals like those on your plate also were used by several American china companies. Today your plate, in excellent condition, would sell for $25 to $75.

Q: I fell in love with a six-leg table at a Salvation Army store. Of course, I bought it. It has a hinged lid and a small drop-leaf hinged door that allows one to reach inside without lifting the lid. An old sticker on the inside reads “Golden Voiced Table,” and a brass plate reads “Atwater Kent Radio – Table by Keil – Milwaukee.” Can you tell me how old this table is?

A: You have the table part of a radio-table made when radios were a new idea. A radio was plugged into the table behind the hinged door so it would be hidden when not in use. Keil Furniture Co. of Milwaukee was one of several furniture makers that made cabinets or tables to fit radios. Your table, with an Atwater Kent screen-grid radio inside, was advertised for $179 in 1929. Today, with its original radio inside, it’s worth several hundred dollars to a radio collector.

Q: I have an old pale-green glass bottle embossed with an image of a stag’s head and the words “Green Seal Select.” The bottom front edge is embossed “pure and without drugs or poison,” and the bottom of the bottle is embossed “Buckeye Bottling Works, Toledo. O.” I’m a native of Toledo and wonder if you can give me some history of this bottle.

A: Green Seal Select beer was an early brand made by the Buckeye Brewing Co. of Toledo. Buckeye was in business from 1838 until 1972. The words “pure and without drugs or poison” were used by many bottlers after passage of the 1906 Federal Pure Food and Drug Act. So your bottle dates from after 1906 and probably before the 1930s, when applied color labels gained favor. During Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, Buckeye bottled soda and brewed “near beer.” Whatever it once held, your bottle is worth about $15 today.

Q: Are the Relpo Valentine-lady figurine planters being reproduced? My husband collects them, and this year he’s seeing many online advertised as “like new.” Some are going for a lot of money. I’m talking about the figurine planters with white dresses covered with hearts.

A: Relpo, short for the Reliable Glassware & Pottery Co., was the sales division of Samson Import Co., a Chicago importer. Samson was founded by Samuel Krivit in 1933, and Relpo was started by his son, Jerome. The Krivits, like other American importers, bought ceramics from Japan, including lady head vases and figurine planters. We have not yet heard that anyone is making new Valentine figurine planters like Relpo’s, which included a lady holding a closed umbrella and a lady putting a letter in a mailbox. The figurine planters are popular with collectors, and it’s possible someone found some stored boxes of originals.

Tip: A paste of baking soda and water can be used to clean old enameled cast-iron pots.


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